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Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection

Score: 65%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: NAMCO BANDAI Games America
Developer: Dimps
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2 (Local Only)
Genre: Fighting

Graphics & Sound:

HD collections are all the rage these days. Most of the truly great franchises of the recent past have been brought back in high-definition glory. God of War, Devil May Cry (with the obvious exception of 2), Metal Gear Solid, and The ICO & Shadow of the Colossus Collection have proven that these games still matter to us. These classic franchises stand in almost comically stark contrast to the most recent recipient of an HD Collection: Dragon Ball Z Budokai, a fanservice-based fighting series that ranges from halfway-decent to utter crap. Luckily, the halfway-decent one is part of Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection. The first (and possibly most forgettable) of them is the other part.

If Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection really is in HD, my eyes are worse off than I thought they were. Make no mistake: Akira Toriyama's classic art style makes for some flashy and colorful action. But there's a certain degree of visual sharpness that naturally comes with other HD remakes, and it is not present here. Most of the cutscenes and menu screens are clearly meant for standard definition televisions.

Dragon, dragon, rock the dragon. There are snippets of classic Dragon Ball Z music, but most of it is original, and by extension, stupid. There's a lot of bland J-rocky fluff. On the voice acting side of things, it certainly sounds like the original English dubbing cast has participated in these games. However, their level of involvement isn't even close to that in the television show.


Gameplay:

To say that I've grown tired of Dragon Ball Z fighters is like saying being poked in the forehead every two seconds is distracting. I can't understand why developers can't make a decent DBZ fighter. It should be a no-brainer. Well, Dragon Ball Z Budokai is still pretty lame, but Budokai 3 might be the only somewhat modern title to get it right.

Dragon Ball Z Budokai's game modes are few and not very impressive, even by the standards of the era in which it was released. You can get through Story Mode, which is a recreation of some of the most famous moments in the series. However, only hardcore fans will be able to follow the actual story. The treatment is most definitely from a fanservice perspective; it's less about involving the gamer and more about letting fans participate in the fantasy vicariously. Duel Mode lets you fight against others, and World Tournament gives you a ladder to work your way up. And that's about all there is to say.

Budokai 3's game modes aren't much more interesting, but they are improved by the fact that the gameplay is simply much better. Story Mode is replaced by Dragon Universe, which is mostly the same, save for an explorable overworld that comes with some icky control snafus.

There's no online multiplayer, and that's just inexcusable.


Difficulty:

Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection's two featured games are not hard to pick up and play. Compared to other fighters, it doesn't even take all that much time to master. Command lists are easy to memorize, and before you know it, you'll be pulling Kahehameha Waves, Special Beam Cannons, Final Flashes, and whichever classic DBZ attacks you love the most.

On the default (and only, to my knowledge) difficulty setting, enemies put up a reasonably good fight. However, when their Ki is depleted, they will tend to keep their distance from you in an effort to build it back up. This is usually a great time to zoom in and start doing some serious damage. When enemies are flush with energy, they tend to be much more aggressive. So take that into consideration before bringing your fight.


Game Mechanics:

Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection features two games that work with mechanics that are so fundamentally similar that it doesn't at all warrant both games being packaged together. That comment is most specifically aimed at Dragon Ball Z Budokai. Budokai 3 is essentially Budokai with a handful of serious gameplay improvements. Why anyone would choose to play Budokai over Budokai 3 is beyond me.

These two fighting games make more use of all three dimensions than any other 3D fighter out there. You'll duke it out on the ground, but you'll take to the air every now and then. But the core fighting mechanics are vaguely similar. You can build combos with punches and kicks, but you can also unleash trademark energy-based attacks. In Budokai, many of these attacks can only be triggered at the end of certain combos. This is uncharacteristic of the series, so Budokai 3 fixed that. Budokai also featured combat that felt clunky and slow, so Budokai 3 fixed that too -- well, sort of. The ability to warp behind an opponent as a means of counterattack was a great addition to the formula, and really helped speed things up. Other improvements were added to help the game feel more like the show. For example, clashes were mindless mechanics (one based on luck, another based on stick wiggling, and yet another based on button-mashing), but they dealt with beams colliding and action that was so fast you couldn't keep up with it. It makes sense.

Even at its bargain price of $39.99, Dragon Ball Z Budokai HD Collection just doesn't satisfy. There's nothing new to pull in the faithful who already own these games, and they haven't aged very gracefully to begin with. They should have rereleased Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3 by itself over the online marketplaces and saved themselves some time. This is just not worth it.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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